Set and setting: A randomized study of different musical genres in supporting psychedelic therapy

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Mounting evidence supports the serotonin 2A receptor agonist psilocybin as a psychiatric pharmacotherapy. Little research has experimentally examined how session “set and setting” impacts subjective and therapeutic effects. We analyzed the effects of the musical genre played during sessions of a psilocybin study for tobacco smoking cessation. Participants (N = 10) received psilocybin (20-30 mg/70 kg) in two sessions, each with a different musical genre (Western classical versus overtone-based), with the order counterbalanced. Participants chose one genre for a third session (30 mg/70 kg). Mystical experiences scores tended to be higher in overtone-based sessions than in Western classical sessions. Six of ten participants chose the overtone-based music for a third session. Biologically confirmed smoking abstinence was similar based on musical choice, with a slight benefit for participants choosing the overtone-based playlist (66.7% versus 50%). These data call into question whether Western classical music typically used in psychedelic therapy holds a unique benefit. Broadly, we call for experimentally examining session components toward optimizing psychedelic therapeutic protocols.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalACS Pharmacology and Translational Science
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Cessation
  • Cigarettes
  • Music
  • Nicotine
  • Psilocybin
  • Psychedelic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology

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